Fortnite players are always looking forward to the next patch, but some see the one on the way this month as a seminal moment for the game’s Battle Royale component. That’s because of an exploit with weapon swapping and a more fundamental issue with so-called “dick bullets.”
For the last few months, high-level play in Fortnite Battle Royale has devolved into one basic strategy: Get a couple of shotguns and get to higher ground than your opponent. That’s taken a game with many potentially different play styles and funneled them all down a very narrow path. In order to break the game out of its rut, developer Epic Games needs to fix both issues.
The first part is, arguably, the one that Epic has the most control over.
Right now, switching between some shotguns is faster than firing a single shotgun multiple times. Players simply fire one, switch to the other, and fire again. So long as you can keep your target in the crosshairs, it’s a devastating exploit.
Epic will need to fiddle with the timing of its weapons and inventory across the board to eliminate the issue, which, in and of itself, is no small task but appears manageable. For now, at least, you’re better off carrying several shotguns instead of just one.
But the other part of the problem is a little harder to address. To get a good look at it, let’s turn to a video by a YouTuber named Sypher.
His video shows a winning strategy for getting above your opponents quickly and firing down on them, which makes a heck of a lot of sense. When you’re above another player, you have a clear and unobstructed view of their head. In fact, if you get the angle steep enough, just about all you can see is the top of their head. If you’re spamming an assault rifle or double shotguns, why not get up high and be efficient about it?
But let’s pause for a moment, slow that video down, and take a good long look at those dick bullets.
As Sypher moves to the top of his improvised tower, he zooms in. His aiming reticle clears the top of the barricade first, but he holds his fire just a beat longer. Only after he’s taken another step or two does he pull the trigger. That’s so his rounds actually clear the top of his cover, rather then landing short.
The trouble is that his bullets aren’t actually flying out the muzzle of his gun. They’re sort of flying out of his avatar’s chest, waist or perhaps his groin. Hence the phrase “dick bullets.” That’s the term that was used to describe the issue when it cropped up in another battle royale-style game, H1Z1.
Dick bullets eliminate some of the benefits of other types of cover in the game, like windows or low walls. When shooting through a window on level terrain, players expose more of their avatars to incoming fire just so that they can get their dick bullets out the window. Using the edge of a ramp as cover instead allows a player to stand just a little bit lower relative to the enemy. Dick bullets can hit their mark, all while players expose less of themselves to incoming fire.
This dick bullet phenomenon isn’t unique to Fortnite. It’s called parallax, and it’s an issue with every shooter ever made. That’s why we have aiming reticles in the first place. At its root, it’s a geometry problem as old as gaming itself, one that involves the position of the camera, the player avatar and the barrel of the virtual gun.
Here’s hoping that Epic comes up with an elegant solution, because the community will be watching.